Picture Books from India or Featuring Indian-Americans
The Greedy Crows: a tale from northern India (1998) retold by Cathy Spagnoli and illustrated by Omar Rayyan. This folktale features a peacock, the national bird of India, who lived near a crow, his five greedy sisters, and his youngest, kind sister. This story of trust and care for the weak culminates with dramatic consequences for the greedy.
Manu and the Talking Fish (2000) retold by Roberta Arerson. This India flood story comes from Hindu mythology, but students will quickly notice the connections to the story of Noah and the ark. In this story it is the god Brahma, disguised as a fish, who finds goodness in the heart of Manu the fisherman and alerts him to the impending flood. A great way to help students compare and contrast similar ancient tales.
The Ghost Catcher: a Bengali folktale (2008) retold by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss and illustrated by Kristen Balouch. In this trickster tale, the young barber must act quickly when he is confronted by an angry ghost. Thankfully he is clever as well as kind and is able to trick both the ghost and his uncle into helping him along the way.
Read Aloud Tales of Indian Mythology: Shiva - The Fisherman and other stories ... (2014) retold by Vaneeta Vaid. Our partner classroom in India from the Global Read Aloud sent us this book, and my students have really enjoyed it. There are several illustrated short stories drawn from Hindu mythology and geared for younger readers. I plan to explore some of the other titles in this series as well.
Gobble You Up! (2013) by Sunita with text by Gita Wolf. (A SABA Highly Commended Book)
This cumulative folktale is an adaptation of a Rajasthani trickster tale told through Mandna artwork, a traditional finger-painting style from the Meena village. The hand-bound nature of the book's construction further amplifies the handiwork involved in creating this unique book. Combined with an engaging and humorous text, this book is sure to delight! Another excellent arts integration project-in-waiting.
Ganesha's Sweet Tooth (2012) by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes and illustrated by Sanjay Patel. (A SABA Highly Commended Book)
This is a highly entertaining and engaging picture book about Ganesha and the writing of the Mahabharata, though it is more accurate-described by the authors as "loosely based" on the Hindu legend. These is some charming humor and visual effects that kids will enjoy, and the bright, stylistic artwork adds to the joyful exuberance of this story.
The Fantastic Adventures of Krishna (2013) by Demi (A SABA Highly Commended Book)
This book shares the childhood adventures of Krishna, the Hindu Lord Vishnu reborn on earth to defeat the evil demon kings. The wide variety of spectacular and menacing demons are rendered in dramatic fashion through Demi's brightly colored artwork. A truly fantastic way to share these stories with kids.
Anklet for a Princess: a Cinderella story from India by Lila Mehta, adapted by Meredith Brucker, and illustrated by Youshan Tang. This Indian Cinderella story is based on oral traditions dating back at least 1,000 years and features Godfather Snake as her magical adviser. You can find out more about other Cinderella stories from Asia here.
Dorje's Stripes (2011) by Anshumani Ruddra and illustrated by Gwangjo and Jung-a Park. Through the monks experience with the Royal Bengal tiger they name Dorje, the reader learns about the plight of these tigers. The author's note at the end provides some of the sad statistics about tiger poaching and killings.
In the Heart of the Village: the world of the Indian banyan tree (1996) by Barbara Bash. This lovely environmental tale begins with the legend of the first banyan and a history of the banyan tree. The story then follows the tree through its day with a focus on its relationship to the people and animals that live in and around the village. A great way to introduce students to the floral and fauna of this region of India.
Sacred River: the Ganges of India (1995) by Ted Lewin. This incredibly-illustrated book tells about the importance of the Ganges River and highlights the interactions of individuals with the river during the course of a day. The story concludes with details about Hindu cremation and scattering in the river.
Balarama a Royal Elephant (2009) by Ted and Betsy Lewin. This touching nonfiction book details the authors visits to India and their interactions with the royal elephants culminating in a giant parade and Mysore Dasara celebration. The back matter includes facts about elephants in general and the royal elephants individually, as well as a glossary and pronunciation guide.
Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank (published in 2014 Lee & Low) is written by Paula Yoo and illustrated by Jamel Akib. Twenty-Two Cents is a picture book biography of Muhammad Yunus, the Noble Peace Prize winner and founder of the Village Bank (eventually Grameen Bank). The book begins with his childhood and includes background information about the political and economic situations of the time. This is a an inspirational message of how one person can improve the world around him/her. Readers of this book will be encouraged to start asking their own hard questions and perhaps find their own solutions to current and future problems. You can read a more detailed review, including activities, here.
Monsoon Afternoon (2008) by Kashmira Sheth and illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi. This endearing picture book explores the first day of monsoon season as told through the eyes of the younger brother and his adventures with his Dadaji (grandfather). Great connections to the past and the future as well.
My Dadima Wears a Sari (2007) by Kashmira Sheth and illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi. Indian-American granddaughter Rupa does not understand why her Dadima (grandmother) always chooses to wear a sari, but through the story she learns more about the saris and her Dadima. The author's note includes her own stories of wearing saris as a child and adult and includes step-by-step directions for wrapping your own sari.
Mama's Saris (2007) by Pooja Makhijani and illustrated by Elena Gomez. This story features an Indian-American girl (implicit) admiring and playing dress-up with her mother's saris. This is a lovely introduction to Indian clothing and traditions that would make any girl want a sari to dress up in.
Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji (2011) by F. Zia and illustrated by Ken Min. This story features Aneel whose grandparents have come to visit from India. After hearing some of his Dada-ji's stories, Aneel decides to bake him some hot, hot roti and restore his power. This is a fun story, and my biggest complaint is the lack of a roti recipe in the end notes, because you will definitely be hungry!
Do you have any favorite picture books from India or featuring Indian-Americans? Please share your suggestions in the comments below!